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One of the most asked questions I receive from clients and webmasters is does Google still utilize Meta keyword tags in SEO ranking factors. Many SEO professionals debate over this controversial issue. The debates are based on an article published by Matt Cutts of Google released in September of 2009. The article, which was also accompanied by a video, informed us that Google no longer uses Meta keyword tags as a SEO ranking factor.
Google’s Standpoint: Not Used
As the article above stated, Google has mentioned they no longer utilize Meta keyword tags in their algorithm for search rankings. Google did say that they will not guarantee any permanence in this decision in that there is no promise that it will never be used again, however, they did say it was highly unlikely they will use meta tags as a deciding factor in the future. There are still individuals who believe Meta keyword tags can have negative ranking effects by using them on Google, however, I have been unable to substantiate this in my findings or find anything official that backs up this theory.
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Yahoo’s Standpoint: Rarely Used
It was around the same time in 2009 that Google announced they were no longer using Meta keyword tags that Yahoo announced, at their SMX East Conference, that Yahoo’s search engine would also no longer use keyword Meta tags in their ranking algorithm. It was this announcement that was followed up with an article from Search Engine Land specifying they conducted an experiment and found the Yahoo statement to be false. Yahoo responded rather quickly to Search Engine Land with this statement:
What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the Meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to Meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system.
Bing’s Standpoint: Not Much Weight
Bing has affirmed that they do not support the Meta keyword tag and have stood by it for a very long time
Should You Use Meta Keyword Tags for SEO?
Meta keyword tags should be used with extreme caution. I have provided information on how Google really does not use this as a ranking tool at all anymore and, how the other two major search engines do indeed take a peek at this tag. You should treat carefully as improper or spammy use most likely will hurt you with Bing, or even have your site marked as spam. If you so choose to use Meta keyword tags, be sure to avoid overstuffing the keywords and do not include keywords that are not related to the specific page you place them on.
The other side of the equation is making sure your competition is not aware of your SEO plan. The downside to Meta keyword tags is that, in theory, your competition can easily see exactly which terms you are targeting and in turn can pursue the same terms to rank for. If you choose other methods to attempt to rank for your terms you can do so without giving away the secret sauce to your keyword term list.